Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bad Friend

When I was eight, my best friend was an Asian kid named Martin. Martin’s parents had immigrated when he was five or so, and they were deeply traditional. They also adored me, and I loved spending time at Martin’s house because his mother seemed to cook sprawling, sumptuous feasts every night. It was like each evening they were celebrating Mulan’s defeat over Shan Yu. Whenever I’d visit, his mother would stuff me full of steamy, savory morsels, as if I myself were being shipped off to war.


Somewhere along the line I gleaned the notion that Chinese parents prize sons over daughters (which may or may not have been true in this case), and I chose to believe this as the reason I was liked. As an impressionable child, it seemed entirely likely that Chinese people simply hated girls, but I didn’t care. As long as I was being fed delicious food, I took no interest in complicated socio-economic issues. I’ve always been easily placated by food. I would’ve invited Stalin into my own home if he offered me a pot of mashed potatoes. Garlic mashed potatoes and I would’ve converted to Communism on the spot.

Whatever the case, they loved me, and I quickly learned I could get away with almost anything. For instance, Martin’s mother was unfamiliar with the American rating system for movies, so I could convince her to rent absolutely anything for Martin and me. One night I nonchalantly handed her a VHS of Goodfellas and she rented it for us without question.

I reveled in the violence and foul language. Martin did not.


It wasn’t all roses and pork buns, though. Martin’s parents had a tendency to be overly worrisome, and I sometimes found it stifling. One weekend they invited me to go camping with them. I was thrilled, but my excitement didn’t last long. Barely an hour into the car ride up to the mountains I started feeling peckish, and asked Martin’s mom if there was anything to eat. She told me there were snacks and drinks in a cooler by my feet. I opened it to find a collection of lukewarm bottled waters and a large bag of seaweed snacks.

I was not amused.


A sweeter child would have graciously accepted the room temperature water and bag of fish food, but if you’re keeping tabs on me so far, at age 8 I was clearly shaping up to be a manipulative racist. I scoffed at the offering and chose to pout for the rest of the car ride.

Once we arrived at the campground I perked up and quickly forgot about the grave personal insult I’d incurred earlier. Lunch and dinner were decidedly more appetizing, and as the sun began to set that evening, my mind wandered to thoughts of s’mores and ghost stories told by campfire light. Instead, around 7:30, Martin’s father put out the campfire and started packing up the supplies. Alarmed, I asked what he was doing.

“We go home,” he said.

I literally didn’t believe him. I asked, “Aren’t we staying overnight?”

“No,” he replied, “Too dangerous to sleep in woods.” I was flabbergasted. I looked to Martin for support but he seemed unphased. This was apparently normal camping behavior to them.

For a second time that day, I was thoroughly unamused.


Nevertheless, the campsite was cleared, and we were all home in time for a 10 o’ clock bedtime.

I grew up in Montana, which aside from a numerous Native population, is very white. Martin and his family were the only Asian people I knew for years, and I made most of my assessments about Chinese culture based on their actions. It wasn’t until middle school, when a Chinese girl burped in my face during gym class, that I came to realize that not all Asians are meek and polite and worrisome.


Come to think of it, that girl did a lot of shitty things to me during gym class, the worst being purposefully stepping on my button-down running pants, causing me to literally run out of my clothes.


(Looking back, both of those things are, in fact, hilarious, but because it happened to me, it was devastating.)

Martin’s family was different, though. His parents were so frequently clueless, and Martin was so friendly and agreeable. I found myself taking advantage of them all too often, especially Martin, and usually without being cognizant of it. I finally realized it was a problem one summer while we were swimming at a public lake. My mom had taken Martin and me out to the lake and we spent the morning swinging into the water from a rope swing tied to a branch. Around lunchtime a couple of teenage girls approached us and took control of the rope swing, refusing to share. One of them would swing out and the other would immediately grab the rope as it swung back. Then she’d wait until her friend was out of the water and back at her side, positioned to grab the rope once more as it arched back. They alternated in this manner for several minutes, refusing to share, despite my complaints that they were being unfair. They were bullies, plain and simple, and it infuriated me. After half an hour of this nonsense I could barely contain my rage, and finally I exploded. I mustered up the worst insult I could imagine and screamed it at them as loudly as I could.


I was immediately shocked at the words that had escaped my mouth.


The girls gaped at me, clearly stunned at my outburst, and after a tense moment of silence they sulked away. I figured I’d won the stand-off, and Martin and I resumed swinging into the water.

It wasn’t long before the girls returned, and they weren’t alone. My mother was with them, looking furious. The girls had told on me. My mom asked me if what they’d told her was true, and without missing a beat I declared, “no, of course not. They’re lying.”

I figured it would be my word against theirs, and I expected Martin to corroborate my claim. He always did what I said, so why would this be any different? My mother turned to him and asked, “Martin, who’s telling the truth here?” Martin looked at his feet.

“They are,” he said quietly. I was irate. My mom made me apologize to the girls and told me it was time to leave. For a moment I attempted to stand my ground, but she dragged me away.


Behind us, the girls snickered at the turn of events.


On the car ride home my mom lectured me about lying, and about how calling girls bitches is sexist and unacceptable, but I heard not a single word of it. I was fuming in the passenger seat. I was angry at my mom for punishing me, and angry at my friend for what I felt was a personal betrayal on his part. Mostly, I was angry that the bullies had won.


Not once did I consider that this fiasco was at all my fault. I didn’t stop to consider that putting my best friend on the spot and expecting him to lie for me was bully behavior.

I was still angry the next day when my mother came into my room to talk to me. She asked me why I thought Martin had told the truth, even though it would get me in trouble. My first thought was, “because he’s a goody-two-shoes Chinese nerd,” but I didn’t say that. All I said was, “I don’t know.”

But I did know. Martin had told the truth because he was the only one involved in the dispute who had any sense of honor. I, on the other hand, was a liar, sort of racist, a little bit sexist, and worst of all, I hadn’t been treating my best friend like a friend.

A few days later the incident had blown over, and we were back to doing whatever it is 8-year-olds do (Legos? Arson? I don’t remember). But I made a conscious decision to not be a shitty friend after that.

I also made a conscious decision to not involve Martin in any bank heists in the future, because he clearly couldn’t keep quiet. Snitches get stitches, after all. And friends don’t give friends stitches.

Friends don’t give friends stitches.


  1. This is awesome - I had the same thing happen when I was little with a Filipino girl that lived down the street from me... WE ARE THE SAME PERSON.

  2. That last drawing is probably my most favoritestest drawing you've done.

  3. I feel like turning that last drawing into a meme. :3

  4. I can't even handle your awesome.

  5. No way, you grew up in Montana!?! I'm from Montana as well. I live in Billings. Where did you grow up?

  6. I greatly admire your consistently accurate spelling and grammar, but today, there is one "o" missing from one of the words. I'd be much obliged if you'd replace it.

  7. whaaaaaaaat? Friends don't tell on you to your mum

  8. This is the first time in a while that you've drawn your mom looking like a normal human being, haha. Hilarious stuff :)

  9. omg i can't stop laughing at your face in the last drawing, so awesome. and wtf is up with bieber's face? yikes hahaha

  10. every time i lose something i turn into that 8 year old you in the car seat.... and say HUMPH!.... a lot

  11. Luv it adam! As usual! sooo funi, i remember doin stuff like tat often as a kid, except i didnt realize it as easily as u did :P

  12. Pift, I would have just grabbed my mom to go shoo dem bitches off.

    ...Or most likely I would start singing and annoy the shit out of them by doing cartwheels or throwing mud at them till they left. Singing always works.

  13. I'm angry that the bullies won too! I mean, should they really be upset if you call them names when they've been acting like they deserve it?

    Least you got their attention... :P

  14. Awesome story! I died laughing at the illustration of you fuming in the backseat of the car.

  15. Nice story, but I think the best part is the first bit about Mulan hahaha

  16. that last image of you : dy-no-mite
    Please, put it on a t-shirt!
    If you make it , we will buy it!

  17. I loved the "I'll never be happy again" drawing. I have so many childhood memories where I declared to my family that I would never be happy EVER again, and anyone who dare question it was done for. Luckily, nowadays I am able to take a more mature approach.
    Anyway, funny post :)

  18. ha ha same thing happened to me with those god damn snap up track pants except i was grown up and in the middle of new york city in similar underwear to the ones in you picture ha ha.. tad bit embarrassing, but as with all things that happen in ny no one noticed. maybe ill move west. are people nicer on the west coast?

  19. Interesting post. This is a great life lesson type of story. Don't take good friends for granted. Love your illustrations by the way!

  20. Aw, Adam. What a touching post.

    Now, stop being so goddamn sentimental and write about your retarded cat.

    And that last drawing? T-shirt, please. Or I, too, will never be happy again.

  21. Are you still friends with Martin?

  22. I'm torn. In my experience, asking nicely doesn't work with bullies at all, and friends should have each others' backs. I don't know how to feel about this =/

  23. Adam... that blonde (i assume) bitch looks like sneaky Phoebe! Could it be that this is sneaky Phoebe's... (gasp) MOTHER????
    Or do you just draw all the sneaky people the same way? :P

  24. Great message, Adam. I appreciate that as well as all the work you put into this blog in general. Your illustrations are speedily progressing and I'm impressed with each new post. Thanks!

  25. The expressions you draw on people just get funnier and funnier, oh my god.

  26. Not your funniest, but meaningful nonetheless.

  27. Calling girls "bitches" in this situation is no more sexist than calling guys "assholes"

  28. This is so cool, love it. Being a kid really sucks sometimes.


  29. Regardless, Martin should have stuck up for you. Those girls WERE bitches.

  30. I used to enjoy arson WITH Legos.

  31. Can i get an actual picture of you running out of your pants?

  32. I think we have a little bad friend, sexist and racist in us all. When I was two, I use to roll a cooler to the edge of the railing of our apartment balcony and drop my pants to show my neighbor's daughters my dirty belows. She didn't believe me when I said that not ALL boys were bare there only her dollies. What are friends for?

  33. Awesome!

    But it's "unfazed."

  34. I laughed so hard that my dog came over to make sure I was alright.

    I love you, lol.

  35. Your comics always manage to brighten my day, thanks so much!

  36. Was stumbling and I found something that looked oddly familiar.

  37. Haha! Very profoundly honest. Don't be too hard on your 8 year old self. The important thing is that you learned from you dickishness.

  38. Pff, those rope-swing-hoarding bitches deserved it. :)

  39. Haha, new reader! I am totally reading your blog only because you are funny and do good pictures and NOT because you are pretty too... honest!

    Love Elle xo

  40. oh man - this is hilarious - great blog! I will always be grateful that clay baboons pointed me here.

  41. I had a goody two-shoes friend who was always honest like that. She would never lie for me! My mom found out every shenanigan my 11-year old mind could come up with, thanks to my friend: dying my cat blue with food coloring, plastering the side of the neighbors' house with mud the day after they moved in, beating the crap out of my brothers on a regular basis, practicing kissing on HER brother, mooning out the rear window of the car. I couldn't get away with ANYTHING.

  42. i have read about 60% of your blog, and that delays me from making dinner i wish to have an hour ago..

    (whats the point?) just want to say that you post a really good posts, 8 out of 10..

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